Posted on 15th May 2013

Posted by Sophie

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Black Bread White Beer

I love the title of Niven Govinden’s third novel, Black Bread White Beer, partly for its ambiguity – it’s never explained or even really illustrated during the book, though do I hear an echo in it of David Bowie’s mid-90s album Black Tie White Noise? True, there is a soggy, inedible café sandwich that plays its…

Posted on 15th May 2013

Posted by Sophie

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The Heart Broke In

James Meek is one of those perennially praised, never quite garlanded writers who must get thoroughly bored of reading how awful it is that he’s not better known and more successful. The Heart Broke In, his fifth novel, like those that came before, is built on the solid foundations of deeply satisfying plotting and precision-tooled prose….

Posted on 15th May 2013

Posted by Sophie

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All The Beggars Riding

Lucy Caldwell’s All The Beggars Riding is difficult to write about without spoiling its effects. Not that the twists and revelations in it are particularly dramatic – in fact almost the opposite – but that they are so deeply woven into the fabric of the story that to tell to any great extent what the book…

Posted on 24th May 2012

Posted by Sophie

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The Light of Amsterdam

David Park’s novel The Light of Amsterdam is a paean to ordinariness and the everyday that resolutely – bravely, even – resists the temptation to make those things somehow holy or magical. There are no glorious epiphanies in store for the three characters he sends off on a December city break from Belfast to Amsterdam, no…

Posted on 21st May 2012

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Brenton Brown

Like a doting parent, Alex Wheatle has always liked to keep tabs on the characters from his novels after the end of their personal narrative, often giving them walk-on parts in books other their own. This time, though, he goes back to the source, bringing us up to date on Brenton Brown, the troubled mixed-race…

Posted on 2nd May 2012

Posted by Sophie

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Heartland

Bizarrely, there seems to have been a recent resurgence in the cricketing novel – Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, Shehan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman, Jennie Walker’s 24 for 3 – but football is still underexposed in the fictional landscape. Anthony Cartwright’s novel Heartland takes for its structure two games: the England-Argentina first round match in the 2002 World Cup,…

Posted on 14th May 2011

Posted by Sophie

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Disputed Land

There is nothing remotely original about Tim Pears’s latest novel, Disputed Land. It’s a domestic drama in which an extended family comes together at Christmas in order to bicker, fight and explore love in a variety of ways. Absolutely familiar, then, but also immensely engaging and thoughtful in ways that reach well beyond the proverbial…

Posted on 27th April 2011

Posted by Sophie

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The London Satyr

Historical fiction can be tricky. It’s not that they do things differently in the past, but that that difference always seems to be done the same way. Robert Edric’s The London Satyr is therefore invigorating for the tactful, almost pointed manner in which it sidesteps every genre cliché even as each seems to hover menacingly…